Have you seen the old American TV cop show where Detective Joe Friday calms the person he is interviewing with a gentle, “Just the facts ma’am…just the facts”? Many people have. They think that this is Joe’s phrase and that it originated with Dragnet. But the facts are different. The phrase was actually uttered by Stan Freberg, a satirist who did a spoof of the show called, “St George and the Dragonet.”
Sorting out the facts is important, especially when you are going through Benjamin Law’s 80-page, “Moral Panic 101: Equality, Acceptance and the Safe Schools Scandal.” His writing is heavy on emotion, stories and anecdotes but light on research, reasoned deductions and statistics. What follows is a presentation of the evidence where readers can make up their own minds about the Safe Schools program.
Exhibit A: Anti-bullying or social engineering?
Safe Schools has always tried to present itself as an anti-bullying program to make “schools safer and more inclusive.” Law quotes the Safe Schools founder, Roz Ward, who acknowledges that that’s never what Safe Schools was intended to be. She says, “I’m on the record as saying, ‘It’s not about bullying,’ which is true.” However, Law still runs with the overarching narrative that homophobia is the dominant form of bullying in Australia and so, therefore, this program is needed to protect vulnerable children.
The reality is that sexuality is not a statistically significant factor when it comes to school bullying. After all, they’re children — most of whom are prepubescent! Research from Canada reveals the following most common reasons: Grades 7-8 [9-12]: Body image 38 per cent [27 per cent], Grades or marks 17 per cent [12 per cent], Cultural or racial background 11 per cent [14 per cent], Language 7 per cent [7 per cent], Gender 6 per cent [4 per cent], Religion 5 per cent [5 per cent] and Income 5 per cent [5 per cent].
Exhibit B: Suffer the little children
Law is especially critical of our country’s only national broadsheet, The Australian, accusing them as follows:
This “self-appointed guardian of the safety of children – spoke to not a single school-aged LGBTIQ youth. Not even one. Later, queer teenagers who followed the Safe Schools saga told me the dynamic felt familiar. At school, it’s known as bullying. In journalism, it’s called a beat-up.”
But according to his own standard of journalistic credibility did Law himself ever talk to “rainbow children” such as Millie Fontana or Katy Faust? They are children of same-sex (lesbian) parents who have been outspoken in the sense of loss they felt in not being raised by both of their biological mothers and fathers? Significantly, Law never mentioned them, even though they both addressed Australian parliamentarians in Canberra and one of them featured on one of the most popular broadcasts of Lateline.
Exhibit C: Boys in a girl’s uniform?
Another fallacy that Law repeatedly states is that the Safe Schools material doesn’t encourage boys to wear a girl’s school uniform or girls to bind their chests. Well, strictly speaking the curriculum might not include it, but the materials connected with it certainly do as can be clearly seen below. You don’t even have to read the fine print to see that Minus18 and Safe Schools Victoria are a couple:
What’s more, the Minus 18 (a partner of Safe Schools Coalition Victoria) website still currently contains material on how to bind your chest, penis tucking as well as ‘packing’ for those struggling with ‘bottom dysphoria.” Of particular concern here is the following statement on the dangers that the material itself acknowledges relating to chest binding:
Because you are compressing tissue, it can cause damage and even breakages to your ribs if done improperly, if things go wrong with your ribs, it has the potential to be lethal (emphasis mine).
Exhibit D: Gender dysphoria
While initially expressing appreciation for the work of Dr John Whitehall, the Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Western Sydney, Law dismisses both the quality and quantity of the statistical data that Prof Whitehall provides. Law refers to only one of Prof Whitehall’s two articles that appeared in Quadrant well before Law’s article was published. In addition, although Prof Whitehall provides a number of references to support his claim that “90 per cent of children who question their sexual identity will orientate to their natal sex by puberty,” Law makes no mention of this whatsoever.
Instead, Law relies solely on the work of psychologist, Elizabeth Riley. Riley actually has no medical training and therefore should not be considered an ‘expert,’ especially when the side effects of therapies such as puberty blockers and surgery are considered.
Exhibit E: Health Risks
Finally, Law dismisses out of hand the statement of the former managing director of ACL Jim Wallace, that, “homosexuality reduces your life expectancy as much as smoking cigarettes.” What he doesn’t realise though is that Wallace based this provocative statement upon a health report submitted by the LGBTIQ community themselves to the Canadian government in 2009. They had specifically requested greater funding for health services due to the increased ‘risks’ associated with their particular community.
With a PhD in journalism, no one can deny that Benjamin Law knows how to write, even if his latest offering is light on evidence and deductive reasoning. But as Christopher Bush, the advertising guru behind the Safe Schools program advised Roz Ward, if you want to sell a message to young people then you need to tell stories. The problem is that in telling a good yarn it’s very easy to overlook or even dismiss the facts whenever they get in the way. And when you do, it’s all too easy for the truth to be left behind. Law has left the truth a long way behind in this latest piece of propaganda.
Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.
Cartoon: Ben R Davis.
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